The Who/That Distinction

peoniesSome editorial fixes are quick but can make an enormous difference in writing quality. For example, writers can immediately improve their work by maintaining the distinction between “who” and “that.” The distinction is really very straightforward: use “who” when describing a person, and use “that” when describing an object or a place.

Here are some examples:

She’s the girl who lent me her biology book.

I don’t know anyone who liked that movie.

Aren’t you the one who told us to come here?

I’d like to interview a woman who has climbed Mount Everest.

This is a story that I think you’ll like.

It’s an club that I would rather not join.

San Francisco is a city that most people love.

Cauliflower is a vegetable that I eat all the time.

He’s the boy who brought the toy that squeaks.

[Please post your thoughts or comments about “who” and “that.” To submit your own work for a free edit–and inclusion in a posting on this blog–please write to me at]


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